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It’s that time of year again. Folks around the country are dusting off their BBQ’s, setting out their sun tea pitchers, planning backyard parties, and what ever other summer tradition that inaugurates the season most of us can’t get enough of.

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Copy of the Declaration of Independence

For most of the country, Fourth of July marks the official start of summer. The late season rains are behind us and the night temperatures have mellowed out to a comfortable setting. The days are the long and the kids have all but forgot about school.

But, what does Fourth of July mean to you? What does the Fourth of July mean to our great country? Yes, of course this post will touch on the safety and concerns that the Fourth of July brings, but also dig into the roots of the holiday, hopefully learning something new along the way. For example,  did you know the Fourth of July was not declared a national holiday until 1941!

The Roots

Most of us know the Fourth of July marks the United States official separation from Great Britain, leading to the birth of our great nation. However, the actual day itself was not all that exciting back in 1776. The Declaration of Independence had already been prepared by Thomas Jefferson nearly a month prior and it’s not even the technical day we declared our independence (that happened on July 2, 1776).

What did happen on July 4, 1776, was the final approval of the wording used in the Declaration and marks the first time the document was reproduced. Dunlap Broadsides was the first to copy the original and distribute it among the colonies. Some original copies from Dunlap still remain in existence today.

The most common misconception about the Declaration is that it was signed on July, 4. The majority of the signatures actually took place nearly a month later on August 2, 1776.  In total, there are 56 signatures from all 13 original colonies, here are some other interesting facts about the Declaration:

  • John Hancock was the first signer of the Declaration. His was the largest and boldest signature of the bunch- hence the term John Hancock, which is still used today as a synonym for signature.
  • Oldest one to sign was Ben Franklin at age 70. The youngest one to sign was Edward Rutledge at age 26.
  • Two future presidents signed, John Adams (second) and Thomas Jefferson (third). Oddly enough, both died on the same day, exactly 50 years after on July, 4 1826.
  • Robert Livingston from New York, was one of the five original drafters of the Declaration. However, was the only one of the five that never signed it.
  • The actual document measures 241/4 by 29 3/4 inches.

Antique American Betsy Ross Stars and Stripes Flag

Did you know?

Here are some other random, yet interesting facts about our favorite summer holiday.

  • The stars on the original American flag were in a circle so that all the Colonies would appear equal. According to legend, Betsy Ross was commissioned by the Congressional Committee to sew the first American flag in May or June, 1776.
  • The first official Fourth of July party was held in the White House in 1801.
  • The song “Yankee Doodle” was originally sang by British officers to mock the disheveled, disorganized colonial “Yankees” with whom they served in the French and Indian War.
  • In 1776 there only 2.5 million people living in America, today there are approximately 316.2 million
  • $218.2 million in fireworks were imported from China in 2012, compared to just $11.7 million exported by the U.S.
  • Patriot, Ind., has an estimated population of 209.
  • An estimated 150 million hot dogs will be consumed on the Fourth of July. If they are pork, then they most likely came from Iowa. Iowa is home to 20.3 million hogs and pigs, the largest population by far of any state.
  • July 4, 1884, a formal presentation of the Statue of Liberty takes place in Gauthier workshop in Paris.
  • The new national flag with 48 states is “formally and officially endowed,” on July 4, 1912.

Have fun, but be safe

Unfortunately, it’s very possible that someone you know or are close to will suffer an injury on the Fourth of July. According to the CPSC, in 2011, 9600 people were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to fireworks.

Before using any type of fireworks, be sure to check the laws for your state regarding them. If you do decide to light fireworks this holiday season, please consider the following recommendations:

  • Do not allow young children to play with fireworks. Sparklers, which most deem “safe,” burn at a high temperature and can ignite clothing quickly.
  • Use extreme caution and always supervise older children that you do permit to use fireworks.
  • Never light a firework indoors or within close proximity to a home, dry brush, or other flammable materials.
  • Always be within reach of a bucket of water or a working hose.
  • Throw away and soak “duds” in water. Never attempt to relight or reuse them.
  • Keep your unused fireworks away from the designated area you are firing from.
  • Check your surroundings before each light to ensure nobody is around or in the firing range.
  • Obey all local laws regarding fireworks and sound ordinances.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

-The Declaration of Independence

Source: census.gov and pbs.org